Paul's dangerous ship ride was about to take an unexpected turn. The ship ran aground on an island they did not know, and they were forced to abandon ship. While on the island, they encountered natives and made quite an impact. And those on the island made quite an impact on them. It was an unexpected detour on their journey that turned into an unexpected blessing.
Growing up I believed that if I worked hard enough, my life would follow a certain trajectory - college, career, marriage, kids, mortgage, grandkids, retirement. While I have some of those things, almost nothing in my life followed the trajectory I intended. Yep, I went to college and started a career - which I hated about 15 minutes into it. I got married and then went to seminary to start an entirely new career. I had kids while in school and then followed my career as a pastor. I bought a house. All along the trajectory there have been twists and turns I could not have expected or anticipated.
The kids I had were all diagnosed at various times with Type 1 Diabetes. The oldest also with MS. The career fizzled when I realized I have a very short attention span and after 12 years of the same Christmas, same Christmas, same Christmas, same Christmas, my career in ministry no longer fit well. My health has been good except for the depression and alcoholism that have both nearly ended me. The house is awesome except for the part where we bought in October 2007, about 10 seconds before the housing market crashed. I have finally, finally, finally realized my life will never be a straight path. Once I accepted that detours are always going to be a part of my journey, the journey itself has become thrilling and amazing. It's opened up an energy inside me that wants to ride the wave instead of fight against it. When the journey detours, I take a deep breath and jump on the wave. I have the most amazing kids who talk to me (as teens!), who are compassionate, caring, thoughtful, polite, funny, and fun. I have a spouse who gives me space and support to try new things like leave a paying career to start my own business. I have a house that, while messy all the time, is a hustling, bustling center of activity for dozens of teenagers who actually talk to me (and listen, too!). I can see now that accepting and embracing the detours is what make life worth living, and if you are reading this, you are experiencing a part of the wave I rode to become a publisher and a writer. If life is determined to take me on a twisting, turning, unpredictable journey, then I will embrace the turns, and maybe even create a few of my own. At the end of my life, I want to meet God, not sauntering in slowly, but screaming in sideways, like this.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Acts 27:39-28:16
In the morning they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned to run the ship ashore, if they could. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea. At the same time they loosened the ropes that tied the steering-oars; then hoisting the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But striking a reef, they ran the ship aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, but the stern was being broken up by the force of the waves. The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none might swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and make for the land, and the rest to follow, some on planks and others on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
After we had reached safety, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us unusual kindness. Since it had begun to rain and was cold, they kindled a fire and welcomed all of us around it. Paul had gathered a bundle of brushwood and was putting it on the fire, when a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “This man must be a murderer; though he has escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead, but after they had waited a long time and saw that nothing unusual had happened to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.
Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the leading man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It so happened that the father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. They bestowed many honors on us, and when we were about to sail, they put on board all the provisions we needed.
Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.
When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.